Last night you heard men shouting, swearing,
saying the whale had got free, the rope had
snapped and they had watched it swim off blindly,
suddenly bewildered at its freedom when
just seconds ago it was set to become the ribs
and handle of a lady’s summer parasol.
They talked of going after the wretch today.
You remember your dream last night:
a huge whale swimming on and on,
holding its breath and going down deep,
deeper, far below the point where light
touches anything, where there are no words
fit for this kind of darkness, and this is where
it shuts its eyes and puts its belly to the seafloor
so that its skull might one day shelter sea
monsters or its bones might be mistaken
for some great shipwreck
but not for a thousand years.
There is a phenomenon called ‘whale fall’ (n., singl.),
which is a dead whale that has drifted down to the abyssal zone,
the deeper section of the midnight zone that is never touched by sunlight.
The whale’s skeleton, stripped bare of soft tissue, transforms here
into an ecosystem of organisms, supplying nutrients to a community
of deepwater scavengers over a period of decades. Whale falls are
normally located by sonar technology, and have been mistaken
for broken bits of airplane fuselage
and wartime submarine wrecks.
The place below the point
where whales fall is the hadal zone.
There is nothing here except certain kinds
of jellyfish and tube worms and the darkness
is only sparsely interrupted
by bursts of bioluminescence.
You can still see them when you shut your eyes.